Weekend getaways can be stressful and rushed, but they don’t have to be. It’s possible to escape for a weekend of outdoor adventure and return refreshed and rejuvenated. (Even in Quebec’s wicked winter.)
On my latest weekend getaway, I went snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking. However, I still had time to read by the fire, prepare dinner in my own kitchen and watch for wildlife in the snow-covered forest. If you’re looking for an active, yet fulfilling, weekend itinerary, follow my three-day journey through Mont-Tremblant National Park.
Set off from Montreal straight after breakfast. You’ll work up an appetite on the two-hour drive, so pop into L’Arôme Café Bistro for a hearty soup and chicken club sandwich. Cozy and affordable, it’s easy to see why L’Arôme is rated one of the best restaurants in Mont-Tremblant. If you have an extra five minutes, stroll the surrounding streets. If you have an hour, pop into the different shops that pepper downtown. Pick up some meat, cheese and wine at a grocery store in town.
Then, hit the road towards Mont-Tremblant National Park. Stop in at the Discovery Centre for the route to your cabin and rent a pair of snowshoes. The trail leaves right from the door and circles the lake. Trek through the snow, pausing to admire your serene surroundings.
Head towards your cabin before the sun sets. Start a roaring fire with supplied wood and make your bed with your sleeping bag. As the darkness descends to complete and utter silence, sip a glass of wine and nibble on the snacks you bought earlier. The cabins are fully equipped with stoves, fridges, plates, bowls and utensils, so whip up a delicious dinner in your own private kitchen. Watch for the paw prints of a curious American marten that lives nearby.
Wake up with the sun. The morning light filters through your large glass windows. Gaze out onto the frozen, snow-covered lake as you sip your coffee. Wiggle into your ski gear and head towards Tremblant Resort.
Since the first chairlift was installed in 1939, Tremblant has grown into a reputable ski resort with an impressive 96 runs, 14 lifts and 645 metres of vertical on the South Side. With four mountainsides to explore, you’ll be entertained all day.
Although there are a variety of places to dine, ski down to the casino for lunch. An extensive window in Altitude Restaurant looks out onto the hill, so you can watch colourful skiers and snowboarders floating down and showing off.
Take the last 3:30 p.m. gondola to the summit for one last run. Then, return your equipment to the rental office and head to Le P’tit Caribou for a satisfying Caesar and plate of the house wings.
Browse the boutiques in the pedestrian village before heading to Le Shack for dinner. Artificial trees with gold and green leaves stretch to the ceiling; a wooden bar decorated with lanterns and fake birds makes you forget that you’re inside. The summery contrast to the white wonderland outside coupled with affordable, classic meals makes this an ideal spot for a family dinner or casual outing.
Once you’re sufficiently full and exhausted, head back to your private cabin to cozy up for the night. Read by the roaring fire, watch for wildlife and enjoy the wilderness sans wifi.
Rise and shine! You’ve got to get up early to make the most of your last day in Mont-Tremblant. As the snow falls, head to Domaine Saint-Bernard for a cross-country skiing lesson. Classic cross-country will take you through the trees over several connecting trails. Stop to feed chickadees and, if you’re lucky, hold one on your outstretched hand.
Back at the rental centre, warm up with a coffee in the cozy café. Then, drive to the original Mont-Tremblant village.
Quieter and more secluded than Tremblant resort, the village of Mont-Tremblant experienced its heyday with the railway. Now, the old train station has been converted into an eclectic art gallery. Restaurants, hotels and residential houses line the main street and swoop around the Lake Mercier. It’s easy to imagine boats, bikes and hikers taking advantage of this little slice of luxury in summer, but it’s still possible to enjoy in winter.
Head to Cybercycle, where you’ll rent a fat bike. Fat bikes have large tires made for conquering sand and snow. They are more difficult to pedal than a standard bike in summer, so be prepared to work up a sweat.
Afterwards, indulge in a plate of nachos and a chicken wrap with cranberries and apple at Resto-pub Au Coin. Connected to Hotel Mont-Tremblant built in 1902, the old-fashioned pub draws visitors for its 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. cocktail hour and tapas. New owner Marie Josée Labbé amiably chats with guests and adds a spark of enthusiasm to the already pleasant atmosphere.
When you’re finished your meal, it’s time to leave. As you drive back to the bustling centre of Montreal, don’t lose the revitalizing, invigorating feeling of a winter weekend escape in Mont-Tremblant’s snowy scenery.